Religion in South Aisa: controversies over Renunciation and Engagement

Essay by sunchaocarolUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, August 2010

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Topic: controversies over Renunciation and Engagement.

There are two tendencies in South Asian religion. One is Engagement, which is to perform sacrifices and other rituals in order to prolong and achieve these worldly and other-worldly goals. The other tendency is Renunciation that is to withdraw from society and to attempt the liberation from the cycle of existences. These two tendencies opposed to each other, but have found a way how to live together in peace.

According to engagement, life is radically and fundamentally suffering, due to the repeat of births and death. The goal of human existence, therefore, should be to transcend this restraint to the cycle of rebirth and to reach the total freedom and bliss. The religions participating this world view challenged the society-centered ritual religion of the earlier Vedic period. It is mainly talking about the value of responsible social engagement within the context of marriage and family.

One passage of the Aitareya Brahmana shows the rejection of ascetic celibacy and the strong defense of marriage and procreation. Many literatures typically pay attention on the suffering someone causes his forefathers when he supposes a celibate life without leaving any descendants to continue his line. A story from Mahabharata talks about this principle:

One day the sage Agastya finds his forefathers hanging upside down in a cave and discovers that they have been reduced to that miserable condition because of his decision to turn celibate without leaving any progeny to continue his line and to provide his forefathers with ritual offering.

As Jaratkaru thought the earth devoted to a life of celibacy and asceticism. He says: "Come on, good man, take a wife and bear children!." He calls on people to engage in their society.

In the early Upanisads we already find...